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Paperback Early Christian Doctrine: Revised Edition Book

ISBN: 006064334X

ISBN13: 9780060643348

Early Christian Doctrine: Revised Edition

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Book Overview

This revised edition of the standard history of the first great period in Christian thought has been thoroughly updated in the light of the latest historical findings. Dr. Kelly organizes an ocean of material by outlining the development of each doctrine in its historical context. He lucidly summarizes the genesis of Chrisitian thought from the close of the apostolic age to the Council of Chalcedon in the fifth century--a time teeming with fresh and...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

An Excellent Resource

Kelly provides a concise overview of early Church history. He covers, in good detail, such diverse topics as early church government, the sacraments, the concept and practice of penance, Augustine's concept of predestination, and much more. He seems to take a view of the church fathers that is intermediate to those of Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants.

One of the Best Handbooks- detailed and clear

Kelly presents a masterful summary of Church theology and history. This is a great price for the content. If you have even the slightest interest in the early Church, this book will serve to both satisfy your initial curiosities and spark new ones. This is one of the standard university texts with more than enough to chew on for the novice or master. Other books of interst include Jaroslav Pelikan's The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Volume 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) (The Christian Tradition: ... of the Development of Christian Doctrine)gence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600)", which is not the easiest book to read, but still accurate and reflective, not just a restatement. The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787): Their History and Theology (Theology and Life Series 21) by Leo Donald Davis is the best in English on the subject of the coucils. Of course, the four volume "Patrology, Volume 1: The Beginnings of Patristic Literature, by Johannes Quasten, is great for beginners and experts (so experts tell me!). A popular account of heresy in the early Church is C. FitzSimons Allison's The Cruelty of Heresy: An Affirmation of Christian Orthodoxy.Beginning to Read the Fathers by Ramsey is also organized and useful. Enjoy! Please, let me know if yo have other suggestions.

A Standard Historical Theology Text

Kelly's work is definitely a standard in the arena of historical theology. In fact, Kelly himself is considered one of the foremost authorities on Patristic Church history from the 20th century. That being the case, it goes without saying that this work is highly respected and thus a standard in its field. Nonetheless, the text is written in such a way that almost anyone who puts forth an effort to read it can understand it. Kelly has a style of writing that brings the reader into the book without actually confusing the reader in unexplained detail and jargon.This text is divided into four parts. Each part covers pertinent topics and issues from certain time frames in Patristic Church history. For instance, part two covers the Pre-Nicene theology regarding the Trinity, Christology, Redemption, and Ecclesiology. Each part is broken down in a similar fashion thus working through the Patristic period from the First Century of the Church to Augustine and the fifth century (early medieval period).All the major doctrines, theologians, apologists, creeds, and councils are covered in some sort or fashion. Moreover, Kelly provides a wonderful Prolegomena (which is part one) to introduce the time frame, setting, background, etc. which leads up the continued formation of the Christian Church.The wonderful thing about this book is the wide audience it commands. Both theologians and historians will benefit from its pages. Moreover, lay people who are simply trying to gain a better understanding of their heritage and doctrine will find helpful information and facts well organized and easy to follow. Some of the major doctrinal issues in this text include The Trinity, salvation/redemption, original sin, grace and forgiveness, the sacraments, Mariology, and the authority of the Bible.Other helpful features of this text include an extensive bibliography, the revised edition includes a new chapter on Mary and certain saints, exhaustive references and footnotes, and a very detailed index. This text is an absolute must for those who are studying Church history as well as theology, and for anyone who simply wishes to gain a better understanding of Christianity. I highly recommend this book!

Knowing where we came from

One of the problems with the modern evangelical Christian church is that very few of its members know where they came from. History was reviled by many of us in school, so there are those who would make the mistake of ignoring history. The problem with this outlook is that, as someone famous once said, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. That is true in the historic Christian faith. Our spiritual forefathers worked hard to distinguish orthodoxy from heresy. From the person of Christ and the nature of God to baptism, Kelly explains what the early church fathers believed. He is quite honest about those early debates, and he shares with us the orthodox conclusions. Today, when we deal with heresy, we should feel free to see what those before us believed. Perhaps this will save a lot of heartache later on when deciding if a church is truly Christian or not. One minor complaint. The footnotes are hard to read/understand. Most of us will have to take Kelly at his word, as he is the expert. But trying to understand these notes made me almost dizzy. Finally, I point out that the index is a great tool. Even if a person does not read this book from cover to cover--it can get a little dull for some of us, all that history!--the index makes this a wonderful resource when studying certain Christian doctrines. So, for instance, if you want to know what the early church felt about baptism, there are several dozen places in this book to look up. This makes it valuable on an available bookshelf.


This is simply the definitive book on patristic theology. Kelly obviously spent years laboring in the primary sources. He rarely relies on secondary sources. The only real drawback to the book is its topical format. It is organized by subjects such as the Trinity, the Christology. This does have its advantages, allowing you to trace the development of a doctrine through several theologians. It is difficult, however, to comprehend the entire system of a single theologian. This is definitely not the first book you want to read on the subject, as Kelly assumes you are familar with the basics of early church history. For the more advanced theological student, it is indispensable.
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